CHAMPIONSHIP BOUND! Northwestern rolls over Indiana Wesleyan in NAIA Semifinals
Red Raiders reach championship game for second time in three years with 38-7 win
ORANGE CITY, IA (Dakota News Now) - The No. 3-ranked Northwestern College football team (12-1, 9-1 GPAC) will make their second trip to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Football Championship Season (FCS) national championship game in three seasons, with a 38-7 win over Indiana Wesleyan University (11-2, 7-0 MSFA) on a cold December day at De Valois Stadium. Jalyn Gramstad combined for 252 yards and four total touchdowns, moving into second all-time in the single-season list for rushing touchdowns (22).
“Our defense made some huge stops to squelch momentum. The (Fryar) interception in the end zone was really a game changer,” said head coach Matt McCarty. “The defense, again, played great defense for all four quarters. Our defense is something we can constantly hang our hat on.”
The hot start streak continued for the Red Raiders again today, as Northwestern scored 17 points to start the game in the first quarter on the Wildcats. It didn’t take Northwestern long on the cold day in Orange City, as Gramstad (So., Lester, Iowa) led the Raiders down the field in six plays, going 65 yards, with the last three plays being passes of 10, 5, and 27 yards. The touchdown was a 27-yard strike to Michael Storey (Sr., Spencer, Iowa).
“We’ve been able to get off to great starts because we’ve had great weeks of practice,” noted McCarty. “We have a very focused and hungry group of guys, and do a great job of setting the tone early.”
Later in the quarter, Gramstad would record his first rushing score of the day with a 15-yard scamper, to complete a 2-play, 29-yard drive after a botched Wildcat punt spotted the ball on the IWU 29. Eli Stader (Jr., Cedar Grove, Wis.) would put three on the board late in the first quarter to make it 17-0. Additionally, the Red Raider defense continued its phenomenal play, forcing punts on the first three IWU drives with all being three-and-outs. The Wildcats were only able to muster three yards in the first 15 minutes of play.
The second quarter would see both defenses step it up, as neither offense was able to put any points on the board. Northwestern forced a turnover on downs and Parker Fryar (So., Waukee, Iowa) had the biggest momentum play of the game, halting a solid Wildcat drive with his interception in the end zone. The Raiders would take the 17-0 lead into the locker room.
“Parker is a dude. He’s relentless and shows up everywhere on defense,” commented McCarty on the 2022 GPAC Defensive Player of the Year. “His interception in the end zone was the turning point of the game, squashing the hopes they had after a solid drive up to that point.”
A beautifully run fake run play left Blake Anderson (Sr., Oakland, Neb.) all alone in the end zone, and Gramstad would not miss him, connecting on the 18-yard touchdown pass. Gramstad would pick up his second rushing touchdown of the day with just over a minute left in the quarter, giving the sophomore sole possession of second in single-season rushing touchdowns (22).
“Jalyn did an outstanding job of just keeping our offense moving. He’s so elusive when he runs the football, turning negative plays into big plays!”
Senior quarterback Blake Fryar (Waukee, Iowa) would get some snaps in the fourth quarter. Konner McQuillan (Jr., Leavenworth, Kan.) would find the end zone from two yards out for his lone score of the day, making it 38-0 Red Raiders with seven minutes to play. Indiana Wesleyan would avoid the shut out with a touchdown on their next drive, making the final score 38-7.
- NWC has not trailed this season since Jalyn Gramstad took over as the starting quarterback (Oct. 1 vs. Mount Marty).
- The trip to the national championship game is the second in three years, and fifth time in program history.
- With his two rushing touchdowns today, Gramstad moves into second all-time in the single-season record book for rushing touchdowns (22).
- The Raiders hand Indiana Wesleyan their first loss in NAIA play this season.
- Northwestern put up 373 yards of offense and held the ball for over 41 minutes of game time.
- Gramstad threw for 160 yards (13-for-21), along with his two touchdown passes and no interceptions.
- He also led the team with 92 rushing yards (15 att.), followed by 68 yards from Konner McQuillan (19 att.).
- Michael Storey had six catches for a team-high 87 yards and a touchdown grab.
- NWC limited IWU to just nine first downs and 182 yards of offense on the day, holding an offense that averaged 347.7 yards per game down.
- More impressive, the third down defense remained unbreakable, as the Wildcats could not pick up a third down conversion (0-for-9).
- Parker Fryar recorded his second-most tackles in a game this season (13) to lead all tacklers.
- He had 16 at Morningside and against Concordia (Neb.).
- Fryar also had the lone forced Raider turnover on the day, recording his second interception of the season.
- The Raider defense had four sacks on the day, led by 1.5 from Korbyn Gramstad.
- Additionally, NWC had seven tackles for loss led by 1.5 from Fryar and Gramstad.
- Ben Kingery forced a Wildcat fumble and had one of the team’s five pass break-ups.
- Kingery and Cody Moser both had quarterback hurries.
- Eli Stader made his fourth field goal of the season and his first from the 20-29-yard range (1-for-2).
Up Next: The Red Raiders advance to the national championship game of the NAIA Football Championship Series (FCS) for the second time in three years. Northwestern face the Seahawks of Keiser University (Fla.) (10-3, 6-0 SUN) down in Durham, North Carolina on December 17.
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